Understanding The 4 2 3 1 Formation and Tactics

Understanding The 4 2 3 1 Formation and Tactics

The formation is great because of its flexibility.  It can go from defensive the basic 4231 shape to very offensive in a 3313.  The inter changing of positions can be numerous and serve to make it unpredictable and difficult to solve for defenses ( who to mark and getting pulled out of position).  The full backs who are called wing backs in the modern game operate like wingers.  They provide the team with width and get up and down the field from box to box. They literally provide width up and down the entire field so wingers can cut in.  The old school soccer full back is non exist ant in this system. The wing back needs fitness levels like a center mid now.   If the winger stays wide the wing back can underlap and make diagonal runs in towards the middle of the field.  In all out attack the two center backs open up and the defensive center mid the #6 drops in between them to form a back line of three.  That allows both outside wing  backs to push up.  It is up to the coach how aggressive to make your back four with their runs.  The #8 your passing center mid positions himself most of the time slightly advanced of the #6 def center mid.  The #10 is the attacking center mid who will play more central and switch at any time with the #9 the forward.  The  #10 is your play maker who can also get forward and score.  The wingers #7 and #11 can play wide and also come in towards the center as the wing backs push on to create width.  Those are the simplified roles of a 4231 in possession.   The coach can adjust the roles and way the team plays in many ways.  Maybe the opposite side wing back from where the ball is does not go forward in possession.  If the team loses the ball then the wing back is already in a better defensive position to help the team.  Maybe you don’t split your center backs as wide in order to be less vulnerable on the counter if possession is lost.  There are many ways you can adjust the formation to your needs.  Another is are you going to press high or are you going to set your line of confrontation lower?  Maybe use an aggressive zonal defense when the attacking team comes over the line of confrontation.  My point is you can be aggressive and pressing in the 4231 or you can sit in a low defensive block and counter attack. All that is up to the coach and should be determined by who your playing and how do you match up against the opponent.

The reason I like the 4231 is that players have such defined roles yet there is plenty of freedom for movement.  It also provides a solid defensive block.  The def center mid #6 is always the one to sit right in front of the back four(center backs) so there is always cover.  I used to let me #6 and #8 switch on and off but to often both would commit to far up field at the same time leaving us exposed and no center mid to swing the ball deeper from side to side if both are pushed up.  Now my defensive center mid is exactly that.

Having players play between the lines and create attacking overloads is another important area I emphasize in the system.  Having players collect the ball in between the lines of the other team helps pull them out of position.  When in possession of the ball players should be in angles off each other all over the field.  Angles, spacing, overloads and timing of the movements enable a team to circulate the ball well and keep possession.

That’s a very quick overview of how I look at the 4231 system. Remember the difference between formations is just 10 yards in players positioning.  You can be an expert in tactics and have great scouting and game plans, but can you translate thatSoccer is a game of problem solving and players must be able to do that on the field without the coach.

Check out my new book “The Method” The Art of Coaching and Management in Soccer http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HYHL9OI

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